Flash mob strikes CCHS lunchroom

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

The Charles City High School lunch menu on Wednesday consisted of chicken strips and spaghetti — pretty standard American fare.

The live dining entertainment, however, was direct from ancient New Zealand, as about two dozen students performed a surprise “haka” dance for their classmates.

Student Brooklyn Tynan helped to choreograph the flash mob, which took place at exactly 11:16 a.m. on Wednesday. She said the haka dance originated in New Zealand.

“We did this because we’re learning about that area of the world in our World Cultures class, so it’s a cultural thing that we’re experiencing,” Tynan said.

About 24 students in Robert Pittman’s World Cultures class conceived the flash mob more than a month ago and rehearsed for two weeks in preparation for the big reveal — which surprised at least some of their schoolmates.

“I think we did surprise most of the class. There were some students that knew about it because they saw us rehearsing it over the last two weeks,” said Abril Flores, who participated. “I really did enjoy it. I was nervous about what people were going to say, but it was actually pretty fun.”

Emily Woodard, who helped distribute the information about the haka dance, said the flash mob was a good opportunity for people to get out of their comfort zone and to have a little fun. She said that although the class project started out as a silly little dance, once she’d done a lot more research on it, she realized it had a deep meaning.

Haka is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. It has its origins in ancient Maori legend and is important to the heritage of the Maori people.

It has become a symbol of New Zealand as a nation, and Woodard said the class was using the dance as a vehicle of education, “to get people in our school interested enough to then venture out and be educated on the Maori culture.”

“We’ve been talking about different cultures around the world, trying to learn how there is more to the world than just the United States,” said student Nathan Shultz, who participated in the dance. “Mr. Pittman showed us a video of a different type of dance his class did when they were studying China, and he had a really cool idea for this haka dance, so we started working on that.”

Shultz said that he’d be happy to try out his dance moves in another flash mob sometime, should the opportunity arise.

“I’d do something like this again, sure,” he said. “Anything Pittman wants to whip up, you know it’s gonna be fun, you know it’s gonna be interesting.”